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Berlin looks to county for skate park money

By Jack Chavez, Staff Writer

(March 23, 2023) Looking to model its pursuit after Ocean City’s course of action, Berlin is going to county government for skate park funding.

At the March 13 meeting of the Berlin mayor and Town Council, Councilmember Jack Orris broached the subject of the town skate park project as it relates to the findings of a county survey on what draws people to local parks — walking, exercising, relaxation and children’s play.

“I think this is an opportunity for us to collaborate with the county,” Orris said. “We, as a municipality, can offer an amendment, if that’s the best way to go, suggesting a fixed amount to request for the skate park to happen here in town. A skate park here in Berlin won’t only be for Berlin residents, so I think this is a good opportunity for another partnership between us and the county — and the state (since) these are state funds.”

Orris threw out figures of $200,000 and $250,000 for requests.

Mayor Zack Tyndall asked if this was related work that the parks department staff does, to which town administrator Mary Bohlen replied yes and no.

“The (Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan) is one thing. The program in its phase and development plan is another,” Bohlen said. “But they do tie together. Unfortunately, when the county reached out to us about the [plan], they gave us 24 hours to respond. Things got missed. However, I’m currently working on the Program Open Space development plan, which does include phases 1 and 2 of the skate park. At the point of the Parks Commission meeting (earlier this month), we thought we had more time. But then they reached out the following day and said we need this by March 31st.”

She added that the Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan (LPPRP ) is a different document but is still worth addressing specifically.

The organization “We Heart Berlin” has been spearheading the movement to get a skate park into town and its founder Tony Weeg said at the meeting that they’re “at the cusp” of getting the state park under the LPPRP.

A report from developer Spohn Ranch expected to show the project complete up to 75 percent was supposed to be in hand on Friday, but as of Monday Weeg had yet to receive it.

Tyndall said that there’s no reason this couldn’t be a request for the county, seeing as the council had already made it a priority issue.

Weeg said that he had spoken to multiple commissioners about it and the reception was positive.

“One said that, on the coattails of Ocean City’s past and the popularity of what that brings to town, it would be the high time to get on the coattails of that ask and make that (happen now),” Weeg said.

Tyndall said that they could include the LPPRP in their Consolidated Transportation Plan or the Community Parks and Playground (CPP) grant application.

According to Bohlen, the town has a grant outstanding for its inclusive playground project.

“CPP only opens for funding rounds at one time of the year,” she said. “It’s not a grant we could apply for at any time.”

“Right now, the way the development program is developing, is the public restrooms at Stephen Decatur Park, as we just have a little more to get that done. The CPP application for the inclusive playground has to be included on it because there’s a grant application sitting out there. After that is phase 1 of the skate park and phase 2.”

Orris said they can still reach out about the skate park.

There was some disagreement among the council members present on what the asking price should be. Orris said that $250,000 would represent a “good start,” since that’s what Ocean City requested for its skate park, but Councilmember Jay Knerr pointed out that theirs was a larger $700,000 project.

“I think we should ask for less,” Knerr said.

Weeg said that the goal was to get the skate park to phase one and the LPPRP report in front of the county commissioners for their April 6 meeting.

“(We should) have a letter from the Berlin Town Council saying that we’d like to have a skate park as an amendment under the playground on the LPPRP,” Weeg said. “(It) would be beneficial for us in the future for other asks.”